A man and woman posing for a photo.

A Taste Of Rhode Island: A 5-Star Event – Brendan Higgins

by Brendan Higgins, contributing writer

Photo: Lupe Aguilar and Pat Paolino Cruz

The Ocean State has always been known for night life, culture and especially for great restaurants – from Pawtucket to Westerly, and all points in between. Thursday night at the Crowne Plaza in Warwick, that reputation was on full display at the annual Taste of Rhode Island. Tasting vendors representing a variety of restaurants and bakeries set up shop and allowed a sold-out crowd of around a thousand people to taste the best of the best in menu items and desserts. There were also plenty of specialty drinks to enjoy. In addition, music was provided courtesy of Dr. Slick. This band was hot. They created a fun atmosphere while also featuring outstanding vocalists and musicians.

Alyna Perez, Marissa Lovely and Gina Pezza of Vanda in Warwick

The event ran as smooth as could be. There was plenty of food and drinks and no waiting at any of the dozens of stations. There were 60 tasting venders in all. I couldn’t see any problems or issues with the event. So, how does something like this go from the planning stage to an incredibly successful event? You would have to ask Cranston resident Pat Paolino Cruz. She has been planning events for two decades. Her track record speaks for itself.

I asked Pat about her recipe for a successful event, and she immediately gave credit to her partner, Lupe Aguilar. She said, “We make a great team. We couldn’t do any of this without our sponsors, Williams and Stuart Real Estate, Bank Newport, Dunkin, RI Seafood, BJ’s Market, Dig In Dining & Entertainment, Sonia’s Near East Market & Deli and Johnson Brothers of Rhode Island.”

2022 Taste of Rhode Island

Pat added, “Lupe and I are into community events. In addition to many other things, this is one of the highlights of the year for us. We love this event. We are going to a bigger venue next time. We can do so much more in a bigger space.”

Pat was in her element over the course of the evening. She is never flustered. She has everything under control at all times. From the pep talk she gave the room prior to opening the doors, to the way she worked the entire room for 3 hours straight, she gets the job done with ease. It was impressive to say the least. Pat said, “Lupe and I planned this in advance. We have staff that work with us who have been with me forever. It takes a village the day of the show because there are so many moving parts. Then we have the charity element. We also have to take care of the venders and their needs. We have to separate them on the floor plan. Who is going to be next to who is extremely important. We couldn’t pull this off without volunteers and the three girls that work for me. Maria, Stephanie and Melinda work in the front (or on the front line) checking everyone in. It’s a very difficult spot to be. We are bringing in a thousand people. We can’t just open the door and let them flood in. We have to strategically sprinkle them in. The girls did a phenomenal job handling that. The Fire Marshall is on site for the entire event making sure things stay up to code, too.”

Once the doors opened Pat was very happy with the feedback she was receiving from the patrons. Everyone enjoyed themselves. Pat has been doing this a very long time. She said, “I’m not typically an event planner. I don’t do weddings. I specialize in consumer events.” Pat organized the Rhode Island Women’s Expo many years in the past and will be doing it again in the future. She also runs business networking events once a month.

The fantastic Dr. Slick

Pat also works for Williams and Stuart Real Estate, and they are Taste of Rhode Island’s biggest sponsor. Lupe runs Rhody Foodie, and he also runs networking events. Pat’s events cater more towards the business world while Lupe caters to a younger, social demographic. The obvious question for these two is when do they find time to sleep?      

I asked Pat if we can look forward to Taste of Rhode Island in 2023. She said, “Yes, two of them. One in the spring, and one in the fall. As for this year, we hope everyone had a great time. It’s about great food, great friends and everybody coming together. It’s a chance to celebrate our hospitality industry. Everybody wins. Hospitality gets visibility and the people attending get to taste the very best food from the Ocean State.” Pat added, “Lupe and I have a great partnership. He is the only person I will work with, and I have been doing this a long time. The biggest part of pulling this off is the two of us have built up such an incredible network of people. We are connected to so many people on and off social media, and that’s what brings in the people. We have a far reach when it comes to putting on an event of this magnitude. In the end it’s not about us. Its more about what we can get done for the community.”

For more information about Taste of Rhode Island visit their website or


Brendan Higgins, writer and author, RIPTA bus driver, former professional wrestler (Knuckles Nelson), and North Kingstown resident.

We welcome Brendan as a contributing writer to RINewsToday.

To read a story about Brendan, from our sports department, go to:

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Higgins is the author of “Waking Up: From the Wrestling Ring to the Yoga Mat